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December 16, 2002

Star Trek: Nemesis

Posted by Mike on December 16, 2002 12:19 AM

Once upon a time, I liked Star Trek movies enough that I made opening night of five or six of them in a row. Even the bad ones were an event. But the last one was awful in a way that wasn't as bad as the fifth one but flat the same way the seventh one managed. It was disappointing because it was the first time I walked out of even the most rancid ST feature thinking that there was no point in hoping the next one would be better.

So along comes Star Trek: Nemesis and I find myself "anticipating" it like I anticipate changing out license plates that are three weeks away from expiring. I know I'll get to it, and perhaps be happy to have taken care of the matter; but I also know that I change my license plates on time about 85% of the time and nothing much seems to come of a week or two of bad behavior. I skipped opening night, skipped the traditional "vaguely anticipated but not impassioned first Saturday matinee" punt, and went with some friends to a Sunday afternoon showing.

So what did I get?

The weird thing is that I found myself forgiving a lot of the movie until the third act, at which point it just became disjointed, frantic, and loud. Some of it was just par for the Trek course, some of it was stupid, some of it was kind of cool and interesting. The ships always look nice, for instance, and Michael B. pointed out that the sets and sounds of the Trek universe are well done and nicely realized. In the end, though, it earned a throat clearing.

Trek Fan Digression
Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings are the Holy Trinity of Stuff from my childhood. Trek is one of the first things (maybe the very first thing) I remember watching on television. Star Wars hit me about like it did most third graders. LotR blew me away and had me picking up the first volume as soon as I'd finished the third on a few occasions (until Dune-mania got me in seventh grade).

As an adult, a certain winnowing has taken place. George Lucas has wrecked Star Wars beyond simple "no stacking up against childhood memories" mechanics. Even if the Lord of the Rings movies had been (turn out to be) awful, there won't be any touching my essential happiness with the original work. But Star Trek lost a lot years ago when the original crew finally went away. Sure... it was getting pretty sad to see Shatner getting larger and James Doohan getting much larger. The willingness to suspend disbelief that retirees should be out flying around was getting stretched to its breaking point. But there was some nostalgia in the whole thing because, perhaps, the original series had such a hard luck story the first time around. It made the whole endeavor seem somehow plucky and fun.

The Next Gen crew never caught me the same way. I always had this sense that between episodes they spent a lot of time on the holodeck going over Anthony Robbins seminars or Total Quality Management training, eagerly awaiting the breathtaking advances in PowerPoint technology we can expect in the 24th Century. I just never identified with that crew, and I think some of my feelings of ambiguity toward the show have rubbed off on the movies. They might have been the next generation, but they weren't my generation.